Ask Stan Lee to name his favorite movie, and his reply is usually instantaneous: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), which was released 80 years ago this very day (May 14th).
Most of our readers are probably familiar with the tale of Robin Hood, either through stories (which date back to the 1400s), animated renditions (Disney’s Robin Hood, released in 1973), or even some of the more humorous spins on the legend (yes, of course we’re including Robin Hood: Men in Tights from 1993). The yarn has proven quite popular in the movies, with the fabled character making his first onscreen appearance in the silent short Robin Hood and His Merry Men a whopping 110 years ago, in 1908. The heroic outlaw even starred in the first film ever to have a Hollywood premiere, 1922’s Robin Hood. That screening was held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, which is still standing and in operation.
But perhaps the most beloved version is the one that Stan calls his favorite, the 1938 movie starring the dashing Errol Flynn (another favorite of Stan’s) as the title character and Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian. If you’re unfamiliar with this adaptation, check out a trailer below.
Such a lavish Technicolor production was a huge deal in 1938; in fact, the picture earned the distinction as Warner Brothers’ most expensive film up to that time. With so much action involved, The Adventures of Robin Hood also employed the highest number of stuntmen working on any one set in 1938. In an effort to enhance the battle scenes, Belgian fencing pro Fred Cavens and his son Albert taught the performers sword routines, while select stunt men outfitted with balsa wood on protective metal plates received $150 – equal to approximately $2,568 in 2018 – each time they let master archer Howard Hill strike them with an arrow during the skirmishes. (Another fun fact: The reverberation Robin’s arrow makes is a favorite of sound designer Ben Burtt, who incorporated a similar tone in most of the Star Wars movies he’s worked on.)